Shakespeare Gone Wild: Meet the Animals in the Bard’s Plays

From insults to terms of endearment, Shakespeare turned to the animal kingdom to get his point across.

This week marks the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death (he was also believed to have been born this week, too).

His life’s work brought about a brave new world in the English language. He is credited with inventing almost 2000 words and phrases in his plays and poems, and cataloguing all of them isn’t for the faint-hearted. But as good luck would have it, he incorporated dozens of animals into the dialogue and descriptive language of his characters.

Even though audiences four centuries ago may have been less exposed to the animal kingdom than we are now, Shakespeare works in an impressive array of animals that Londoners must have had some level of familiarity with. From insults to terms of endearment, metaphors to similes, we went on a wild-goose chase to pair some of his wildest lines with Joel Sartore’s Photo Ark portraits. We could look at these photographs forever and a day.